What Happens When Your Physical Therapist Becomes “The Patient”

What Happens When Your Physical Therapist Becomes “The Patient”

By: Alyson Entwhistle, PT, MSPT

It happened!!!  Your favorite physical therapist, me, became the patient.  It’s interesting being on the other side of the treatment table.  It is ok to admit that sometimes you just need someone’s hands on you and to guide you to make the most effective treatment plan.

I will tell you how to make the most out of your physical therapy and get back to normal function!

Prepare for Your Initial Evaluation

Here are some of the things I was thinking about before my initial evaluation. It helped me and my physical therapist develop the best plan possible.

       What physical or life stressors are going on in your life right now that could have led up to your symptoms or injury or could have prevented normal healing?

       What is your past medical history? Disease, injury, surgeries, medications, lifestyle are all factors that your physical therapist needs to know in order to fully understand you and your symptoms.

My symptoms were related to a technique that I perform every day on patients and I had an unusual response.  I’ve had some nagging pain in other areas of my body and some significant injuries before that sometimes remind me that they haven’t fully recovered.  I knew that all of these things could have tied into what was currently going on, and rather than leaving out that valuable information during the initial evaluation session, I decided to write it all down.

Wear Something Comfortable

Believe it or not, but wearing the right clothes can really change your session!

       Your physical therapist is going to take a look at the body part that you feel symptoms, but also at your overall posture and movement throughout different areas in the body.  The best way to do this is to have comfortable clothing to move around in and for the physical therapist to access these areas for palpation, assessment, and treatment.

       For males – shorts will do or stretchy pants that will go over your knees.

       For females – preferably shorts and a sports bra not too tight fitting or loose t-shirt or tank or stretchy pants that will go over your knees.

What worked for me was a tank top, but I always brought shorts just in case my symptoms were going to be addressed into my hips or how my legs were aligned.  I had learned that the sports bra’s that I liked were too restrictive, so I ended up wearing a regular bra that my therapist could move the strap easily to get to all areas of my ribs and shoulder area.

Communicate with Your Physical Therapist

Even when it is hard or uncomfortable, sharing is always best.

       Your therapist needs to understand your symptoms, what aggravates it, what eases it.  They also need to understand how you respond to treatment during treatment, as well as afterward.

       What’s going on in your life? What has happened to you in your past?  How have you responded to other injuries? Understanding who you are is important at understanding your symptoms.

       Is there a specific technique or exercise that works really well for you or hinders you?

       Do you have any questions or concerns about your treatment or the care you are given?  It is important for you to understand what the treatment is and what to expect each day.  Each physical therapy clinic functions differently and knowing what to expect is helpful to prepare yourself for that day.

I selected a physical therapy clinic, (Body Gears!!!) that only treats one patient at a time.  I knew that I could communicate with my physical therapist at all times during my treatment session for all of the above reasons.  I also knew that even though I’m a physical therapist, I sometimes can’t always see or feel how they wanted my body to move.

Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated

What you put into your body can help you make the most out of your physical therapy?

       Physical therapy can be very taxing on your body and your system.  You are expending energy by learning a new movement, activating your muscles, and you need to supply yourself with healthy nutrients to encourage proper healing to the structures affected.  Make sure you are eating a healthy diet to provide your body of these nutrients including proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy grains and fats.

       Drink your water.  It is recommended to consume 8-10 glasses per day, but staying hydrated during treatment is important too!

I had my treatments during the early morning, but I always made sure I had something to eat.  Some of the treatments were uncomfortable but important, and that kind of stress on the body could make me feel dizzy or low energy.

Focus On Your Treatment

You are here for you, so be present and stay focused

  • Keep your cell phone tucked away
  • Don’t compare yourself to other patients

I don’t know about you, but I am slightly addicted to my smartphone.  I needed to keep my phone out of sight to not be bothered by texts, emails, or phone calls as it would take the attention away from what I was trying to accomplish during my treatment session.

And finally………………………………………………………………………………………

Do Your Home Exercise Program

The most important advice I can give you as a Physical Therapist and as a Patient

       Your exercises are designed to complement your treatment session and improve upon what you gained at each visit.

       Your therapist is here to teach you how to understand your body better and what is happening, we are only with you for 1-3 hours per week and you are responsible for how your body moves 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

       This will help you progress towards the next step of your treatment and progress your strength.

Being a PT, I definitely know that performing my home exercise program is so important.  I skipped a couple days of my home exercise program and I could tell that the next visit I was right back at the same position I was before, with no improvements.

Everyone responds differently to physical therapy and each person has their own set of pain and symptoms due to many different life factors. Following the above instructions can help you make the most out of your physical therapy by my own experience as a patient.

Good luck!